A friend had applied for permission to visit Saiho-ji(西芳寺) temple and asked me to join him. Saiho-ji or Koke-dera has long been top of my wish list of places to visit. I had never taken the trouble to apply even my interest was high, because the temple only accepts visitors after a written application. It sounded a lot of bother to go through.
Of course I said I would go.
It costs 3,000yen to visit. Some think it’s outrageous, but I don’t. In fact, I like the attitude. They accept visitors as a religious occasion. The visitors have to do syakyo(写経), copying Hannyashinnkyo(般若心経) Heart Sutra, which consists of 260 or more Kanji, Chinese characters, with Indian ink and a brush. Before that we chant the sutra 3 times with monks. –Though it doesn’t have to be done perfectly. Then we are free to walk around the garden.
People mostly go there to see the garden.
But it provides a good opportunity to experience things like that. As I concentrated copying characters, I didn’t think of anything and just focused on characters, although sitting with folded legs was killing me with pins and needles.
The temple is more familiarly called Koke-dera, because the garden is covered with moss.
The moss looks like green velvet carpets.
It’s recorded that it wasn’t covered with moss when the garden was created. With passing time moss has grown and covered the ground to give a much prettier, calm atmosphere to the garden which can’t be created by hand, requiring natural help to make the site just perfect.